Most Internet searches are still done via a desktop or laptop computer, but smartphones are taking a more and more significant bite out of that pie chart. It is estimated that more than 25% of search queries are coming from iPhones, Androids, and other smartphones. (Tablets lag behind at just over 5%.) What does all of this mean for your website?
1. It Pays to Be “Near Me”
Local businesses can definitely benefit from the increase in mobile searching. Why? Think of it this way: For some keywords, you’re pretty likely to search on a computer (e.g., “printable calendar” — yes, there’s an app for everything, but anything you only want to print and/or especially want to view full size just doesn’t make sense on a palm-sized screen). On the other hand, there are plenty of keywords that are more typically searched by phone.
In particular, people who are looking for directions or for places near them are usually searching with a GPS-enabled device like a smartphone. Google has reported that 94% of smartphone users search for location info, and 17% of smartphone searches result in a store visit — that conversion rate is not too shabby. Looking at different keywords that are related to business searches — for example, “restaurants” or “near me” — smartphone searches go from providing about a quarter of the monthly queries to between 70% and 90% of the searches performed. Having an accurate Google Maps listing for your business is key, as is having your address and phone number as text on your site (i.e., not as part of a graphic, which isn’t readable by search robots — or clickable by phone users, as a rule).
2. If You’re Not Mobile Friendly, You’re Losing Mobile Visitors
If your site isn’t properly optimized for the web, you can wind up bouncing mobile searchers who are frustrated when the search result they click on doesn’t take them to the page they’re looking for. What’s happening is a “faulty redirect”: The website isn’t set up to handle requests from smartphones, so it just redirects users to the site’s mobile homepage. That’s a lot more clicking, swiping, and searching if someone thought they were going to go straight to a product or blog post, and most users are going to bail. Google has actually set up a system to alert web searchers with a little notation that says “May open the site’s homepage” beneath iffy links, but the best thing to do (if you’re the site owner) is fix it. Either get the redirects sorted out, update your site with responsive web design (which can adapt to computers, tablets, and smartphones), or — the shoestring budget option — just send mobile searchers to the desktop version of your site. They’re more likely to stick with an improperly formatted but relevant page than a properly formatted but irrelevant one.
You might think well, my site isn’t something people would use on their phones. Marketers are finding more and more that people today use their phones for everything, and in plenty of cases, they use smartphones to do things you wouldn’t necessarily expect. A substantial chunk of the searches for big-ticket items — including computers, cars, and appliances — come from smartphones and tablets. In fact, shopping is where tablets really come into their own, and start getting a much larger piece of the search pie. Whether it’s looking for their next ride or trying to find a chiropractor who’s close by, mobile search is a growing part of the action.
3. Google is Still Dominant
You might think “Hey, a whole new frontier for search — maybe the ‘natural order’ of the search environment will be shaken up.” So far, it doesn’t look like it. Google dominates mobile search, and they’re always coming up with new tricks. The search behemoth is currently at work creating search functionality for Android that would allow you to search not only the web, but inside the apps on your smartphone — basically, treating the different apps like websites. If you were to search for the name of a band, for example, you’d not only get web results, but also icons for the different music apps installed on your phone. Tap one of those icons, and you’ll instantly be playing music from the band you searched. The search functionality would work whether you were typing (er, tapping) your query or using voice-operated search. While this might not be especially handy for apps like games, it could help make the proliferation of content and coupon apps much more manageable.
That’s not to say that no one’s nipping at the giant’s heels. At the end of June, Apple announced that iOS 8 — a new operating system for the iPhone and iPad — will be launching this fall. Among the big changes is incorporating web search functionality directly into Spotlight, which is the iOS search functionality. The default search engine for Spotlight will be Microsoft’s Bing. The idea is to deemphasize the mobile web browser, hopefully (for Apple and MS) pricking some holes in Google’s stranglehold on mobile search. It’s impossible to say with certainty, but it’s unlikely to have a strong effect. Google’s Android operating system has 80% of the smartphone market — even though iPhones and iPads have considerable cultural cachet, there are just far fewer of them, and so fewer people are searching with them. It’s also hard to say whether the Spotlight change will have a major impact on how people use Apple devices: Less advanced users may stick with using a mobile browser, and more advanced users could with a few taps change Spotlight’s default search engine to Google, or simply begin their search using the Google app.
Want to ensure your site is optimized for visitors on all devices, great and small? Email us or call today at 760-881-4736 to learn more about how we can help.
image: Sean MacEntee